Performance has followed Kawasaki since the 500cc Mach III launched back in 1969. Over 40 years later yet another incredibly powerful release from Team Green has the industry’s attention. The redesigned 2012 ZX-14R is a far cry from the first generation version that really saw no major change since it debuted in 2006.
At first glance, the “R” model does not seem much different albeit with more aggressive angles and streamlined bodywork, but one twist of the throttle should indicate the force of improvement.
How did the new 14 become the most powerful production bike Kawi has ever created? Without changing the 84mm bore, the stroke was increased from 61mm to 65mm. This 4mm difference bumped up total displacement to 1441cc (from 1352cc) and helped boost midrange grunt. A longer stroke motor would theoretically sacrifice top end for streetable torque, so to compensate, lighter pistons and a reworked head with polished ports made sure power continued up to the limiter.
Smaller changes included an exhaust system redesigned for more flow and a slightly heightened compression ratio of 12.3 compared to the 12:1 of old. So what will this pumped up powerplant put down on the dyno? Our insider sources are pointing at rear wheel power upwards of 190. Hayabusa owners, you did indeed read that right.
Loads of horsepower is worthless without traction and that is where electronics and chassis refinement come into play. Beginning with gadgetry, the ZX-14R comes equipped with a three-mode adjustable KTRC traction-control system inspired by TC elements used on both the ZX-10R and Concours. The first two modes should help improve quarter-mile times by limiting tire slippage only to the point of complete acceleration loss. The third mode cuts out slippage all together, and while not the most exciting, it will help on slippery surfaces. Or, from the left handlebar switch riders can flip it off completely and start roasting rubber with no regard. For further control, dual power modes allow full power or a neutered low mode that cuts the fun out an estimated 25 percent, mostly on the high end—no thank you.
Don’t assume speed is the only area this new flagship excels.
Past ZX-14s caught heat for feeling like a sport touring couch around a corner and ‘Busa riders quickly latched onto this handling pitfall in any head to head argument. Until now, Kawi took a back seat to the jibber jabber, but things have changed. The new 14 is claimed to handle on an oversized rail for a few reasons. On the tech side, a back-torque limiting clutch smoothes out corner entry by keeping rear tire chatter to a minimum on hard downshifts. A slipper clutch has been added along with a newly designed frame. The hollow aluminum monocoque frame is lighter, braced against the engine for more strength and more rigidity than before. The swingarm is also slightly longer for stability at speed, indicated by a new wheelbase of 58.3 inches as compared to the older version’s 57.5 inches. Finally, a revamped and potentially stiffer suspension system and 10-spoke wheels that are three pounds lighter than before improve handling and add to an all-around better cornering experience.
At this point, it is hard to say if this next level hypersport will do to the market what the S1000RR did for literbikes, but we expect Suzuki will have no choice but to upgrade its tried and true Hayabusa to keep up. It will be interesting to see how a bike 17.6 pounds heavier than last year (according to factory curb weight stats) with a substantially larger motor and revamped cornering characteristics runs against the competition down the strip and across state lines. SSB
-195 horsepower (est)
-Selectable power modes
Web site: kawasaki.com